Military uniforms have profoundly influenced everyday fashion. The rise of ‘military style’ began in the Napoleonic period (1793–1815), when uniforms were at their most colourful and elaborate. Civilians revelled in all the associated patriotism and glamour.
Tailors, dressmakers, and later fashion designers adopted features like brass buttons, gold braid, breast pockets, knee-high boots, belts, buckles ... and eventually even camouflage.
For the last 200 years, this ‘borrowing’ of military style has been motivated by a blend of romanticism, practicality, and aesthetics.
However, it is important to note that the influences between military uniforms and civilian dress flow both ways. This is partly because soldiers originally wore civilian dress before uniforms were developed (in the 17th century). And partly because the practicality of civilian clothing gets incorporated into military uniforms, perfected for military use, then reincorporated back into civilian clothing. For example, khaki started out in everyday Indian dress, was adopted by armies for concealment, then returned to civilian dress as a fashionable colour.
Glamorous versus practical
In the 19th century, the glamorous and elegant aspects of military uniforms inspired fashion. Now, contemporary military styles are much less glamorous, but feature prominently in mass-produced, utilitarian fashions such as military-style jackets, aviator glasses, bomber jackets, pea coats, hooded parkas, cargo pants, vests with pockets and pouches, backpacks, caps, simple epaulettes, turned-up shirt sleeves, buttoned down pockets, overalls, t-shirts, and ankle boots.